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Cyclic Hotline
31st Mar 2004, 02:52
Drunken pilot raises questions of air safety, law enforcement response

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer, The Associated Press March 30, 2004

For four hours one January evening, a man piloting a small plane flew drunken loops around southeastern Pennsylvania, coming close to a nuclear power plant and disrupting the flight paths of six airliners, officials say. Critics say the flight, which ended safely, shows an alarming deficiency in law enforcement's ability to respond to out-of-control pilots. Although the military was consulted, it did not send fighters to intervene.

On Tuesday, a Montgomery County judge ruled that pilot John V. Salamone, 44, should stand trial on charges of risking a catastrophe and reckless endangerment. A charge of drunken driving was previously thrown out.

On Jan. 15, Salamone took off from the Pottstown-Limerick Airport, 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia, in a single-engine Piper Cherokee and went on a flight that meandered into New Jersey and blundered into forbidden airspace.

The legal blood alcohol limit for pilots, set by the Federal Aviation Administration, is 0.04, or half the legal limit for driving in Pennsylvania. When Salamone landed, his blood alcohol level was 0.15, authorities said.

As flight controllers worked frantically to both identify Salamone and get him down, he flew as low as 100 feet, within a quarter mile of the Limerick nuclear power plant and into the flight paths of six airliners, officials said.

A Philadelphia police helicopter was credited with forcing him down, but even police concede that they were only a deterrent _ there was little they could do to physically bring him down.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command decided the plane was a "non-terrorist event." NORAD has scrambled fighter jets a total of 1,700 times for potential emergencies since Sept. 11, 2001, but it did not do so in this case.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., called the incident "troubling" in a letter to the FAA, and asked whether the agency planned to change its procedures.

FAA spokesman Jim Peters said "the appropriate notifications were made" regarding Salamone's plane. The FAA planned to respond to Specter's letter in early April, he said.

Andrew R. Thomas, a professor at the University of Akron and author of "Aviation Insecurity," said that post-Sept. 11, authorities should have better procedures for responding to pilots of small planes who fly dangerously.

"It shows how even with 9-11 taking place on the East Coast, that East Coast cities still have no system in place to deal with general aviation aircraft that veer off," he said. "That's a scary revelation."

But NORAD spokesman Lt. Col. Roberto Garza said the military can't be called in to deal with drunken pilots, just as "you don't call the military for a bank robber."

"He could have been a threat to someone's home or crashed it into a nuclear facility, just like a car can do or an 18-wheeler, but the decision was made that he wasn't a terrorist," Garza said.

Henry Ogrodzinski, president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, said there was nothing anyone could do about Salamone short of shooting down the plane. And he said the potential threat of small planes being used in terrorist attacks is "overrated" because of their size.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have had their own troubles in court. On Tuesday, Common Pleas Judge Richard J. Hodgson called the evidence for risking a catastrophe "thin" but nevertheless said District Attorney Bruce Castor had jurisdiction to file the charge. Defense attorney Joseph Green had argued that Castor lacked jurisdiction.

Green said he agreed with the judge that the evidence supporting a charge of risking a catastrophe was flimsy. He declined further comment.

Pennsylvania doesn't have laws concerning drunken flying, and drunken driving charges against Salamone were thrown out after a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

Ogrodzinski said few states have drunken flying laws because it's a rarity and in any event a federal responsibility. But the FAA can't prosecute pilots; it can only take away their license, as it did Salamone's.

For Thomas, the Salamone case simply illustrates that the country isn't yet ready to deal with threats from the air.

"For me there's a big picture beyond just drunk pilots, and that is we haven't done the right thing to secure general aviation in this country," he said. "This story illustrates that."


Original story (http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=11209667&BRD=2212&PAG=461&dept_id=465812&rfi=6)

The Nr Fairy
31st Mar 2004, 04:02
What concerns me most is that the military seems to have made what, in light of the evidence we have, is a reasonable call. What damage CAN a PA28 do ?

But a Professor who's written a book and a policitian have got their high horses out. I fear this will rumble on.

SLFguy
31st Mar 2004, 06:10
What concerns me most is that the military seems to have made what, in light of the evidence we have, is a reasonable call.

That doesn't make sense mate. Why does a reasonable call "concern" you?

BusyB
31st Mar 2004, 06:17
"What damage can a P28 do"?

If you filled it with explosives and fuel you tell me!!

126.9
31st Mar 2004, 06:30
Here we go again...? "If you filled it with explosives/if you flew it into the White House/if it fell on a crowded football stadium/blah, blah, blah...!"

I guess that the military and the judge will be seen to make there JUDGMENTS based on the facts as opposed to all the bull:mad:it that's going to go down here..?

:}

SLFguy
31st Mar 2004, 06:54
Here we go again...? "If you filled it with explosives/if you flew it into the White House/if it fell on a crowded football stadium/blah, blah, blah...!"

It's all Hollywood & Bull**** ain't it 126.9. I mean lets be reasonable - no one in their right mind is going to hijack aircraft and crash them on purpose are they?

You need to pull your head outta your ass and check out the real world mate.

These are dangerous times - don't even ask what damage the a/c could have done - ask the people of Madrid what damage a rucksack can do.

Airbubba
31st Mar 2004, 07:31
This is a repeat story, just like airline pilots showing up drunk. Here is another very recent example:

29 Feb 04

Drunk takes plane for a spin

A drunken man reeling from a four-day booze spree allegedly stole a plane and took it for a spin, despite having never flown one before.

Louis Paul Kadlecek, 21, broke into four hangars at an airport in Houston, America, before stealing two planes and crashing one into power lines.

According to Skynews police said he used pilot's manuals to taxi two planes around the airport in Angleton before taking off in one.

But about one mile later the two-seater Cessna crashed into 100,000-volt electricity lines and cut off power to a large area.

Police papers quote Kadlecek as telling officers he saw a bright light and screamed, "Oh, ****."

Deputy Sheriff Charles Wagner said Kadlecek knew the airport's layout having performed community service there for a prior arrest.

When asked by police where he intended to go, the wannabe pilot reportedly replied: "I don't know. Mexico, maybe."

Several people saw the plane plunge 100ft but one, convinced the pilot was dead, drove off to a golf game.

Kadlecek managed to walk away from the crash unhurt and walk three miles back to his home before being picked up by police.

He was charged with theft and if convicted could face 20 years in jail.


http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_882299.html

126.9
31st Mar 2004, 08:10
QUOTE: You need to pull your head outta your ass and check out the real world mate

At least the pilot was drunk before he went on the rampage, what the hell's your excuse boy?

And yes, these are dangerous times. So let's concentrate on the real threat instead of conjuring up more panic and paranoia!!

:}

The Nr Fairy
31st Mar 2004, 09:46
The way I wrote it wasn't the way it went in my head.

The military made a reasonable call, and pollies and A N Other with what appears to be a vested interest got their oars in.

Hope that clarifies my thought.

kabz
31st Mar 2004, 09:52
29 Feb 04

Drunk takes plane for a spin

A drunken man reeling from a four-day booze spree allegedly stole a plane and took it for a spin, despite having never flown one before.

Yep, the guy, never having flown a plane, managed to get in, start it and successfully take off, though low clouds kept him below 300 feet until he hit power lines. Luckily in such a way that the plane fell backwards onto it's tail, allowing him to walk away from the wreck with barely a scratch.

All the local instructors were complaining that after 5 hours, most of their students could barely manage this :D

Amabokoboko
1st Apr 2004, 03:33
All the local instructors were complaining that after 5 hours, most of their students could barely manage this

I've always found that any idiot can get a plane into the air, it's getting it down in less than three pieces that's a trick :D .

I'm surprised that, in the current climate of paranoia/alert, the Yanks are happy for folk to do comm service at airports. I thought even student pilots were treated with a fair degree of suspicion (not allowed in the tower etc.).

Anthony Carn
1st Apr 2004, 05:39
So there ya go , Mr Bin Liner. Could it be easier.

Hire a suicide bomber with a US accent, preferably one who "does" a good drunk guy. Fill a Cessna with high explosives. Find a nuclear power plant. Need I say more ?

Though I could be wrong.................




..............maybe it does'nt have to be a Cessna. :rolleyes:

126.9
1st Apr 2004, 06:43
At least this one wound up as close to the bin as possible!

:}

Send Clowns
1st Apr 2004, 09:53
Does anyone here seriously think that a light aircraft, even filled with explosives, can do serious damage to a nuclear plant? Does anyone seriously think either (i) this aircraft should have been shot down or (ii) anything else could have been done about this?

Boss Raptor
1st Apr 2004, 09:55
I was not aware the FAA could not prosecute under such circumstance...this seems to me anyway to be a major shortfall...had that happened in the UK, CAA would have prosecuted and no doubt had their book and all the other charges they could find thrown at him...and I feel he would be looking at a custodial sentance over here :uhoh:

PS. nuclear power plants/reactors/facilities (supposedly according to the designs and studies I have seen) have containment structures that can withstand the direct hit of a an airliner...so even a PA28 with some explosive isn't going to hurt much (in theory)

Slow-Rider
1st Apr 2004, 10:25
Does anyone remember shortly after september 11th some derranged kid about 18 I think, crashed his Cessna into the side of an office block in the States. Did very little damage apart from to the particular office it landed in.

Shouldn't imagine it would do much to the side of a powerstation.

yintsinmerite
1st Apr 2004, 11:27
Drunk takes plane for a spin

Wow, not only does he get it in the air, and manage to land it, he also managed to throw in a spin and spin recovery while drunk and having never flown before.

What a star !!

phnuff
1st Apr 2004, 11:31
Yint - behave, this is a serious thread !!

Onan the Clumsy
1st Apr 2004, 14:30
If you filled it with explosives and fuel you tell me!! It'a a PA28. You can load it with either fuel OR explosives, not both.

Boss Raptor
1st Apr 2004, 14:56
Uh I am not sure why this ended up on JB - after all to me it is quite serious, with serious implications and so far reasonably serious discussion :rolleyes:

Going in to bunker now - awaiting the Pprune God Raaamjet to come up my telephone line...

NB. this is the first time (I can remember...) questioning a Pprune Mod. direction/decision :cool:

skydriller
2nd Apr 2004, 15:35
Err, why is this in jetblast??

126.9
2nd Apr 2004, 15:46
Probably has something to do with being a load of paranoid [email protected]?

:}